Brooks braves the anger of staff to explain paper's demise

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Rebekah Brooks last night told the News of the World's staff that she had no option but to close Britain's best-selling Sunday newspaper because it had become a "toxic brand" because of the slew of phone-hacking revelations.

In a tense meeting held in Rupert Murdoch's Wapping headquarters, with News International's chief executive flanked by guards, and the company disabling the Twitter and email accounts of staff, Ms Brooks apologised to 250 employees and tried to defuse the fallout from her address to them 24 hours earlier, in which she had made the shock announcement that their paper was to be closed and they were losing their jobs.

Ms Brooks shared a platform with the NOTW's editor, Colin Myler, who addressed staff and received applause; Ms Brooks was greeted with silence and the occasional heckler.

A NOTW staff member told The Independent that Ms Brooks dodged difficult questions: "She said: 'I am not going to resign because these are unproven allegations,' to which someone replied: 'Well, you closed the paper down over these unproven allegations.'

"We were asking difficult questions about our futures and getting corporate PR-speak back. She told us that everything possible would be done to find us new jobs within News International. Someone replied that it was presumptuous to think that we even wanted to work for the company again after this."

Having lost the support of her friend David Cameron earlier in the morning, with Renault cancelling all advertising with the parent company News International, and employment lawyers circling to take on the dismissal cases of some employees, Ms Brooks explained that that the paper faced two more years' trouble over the scandal.

Commenting on her own position, she said she was a "conductor for it all", adding: "This is not exactly the best time in my life, but I'm determined to get vindication for this paper."

She also reminded staff that she herself had been a victim of phone hacking, and that her voicemails were intercepted illegally a number of times.

The calling of the meeting had prompted speculation that Ms Brooks would finally announce her resignation.

"Rebekah talked of how she had worked her way up through the NOTW ranks and how she had great loyalty for the paper," said another staffer. "This didn't wash because people remembered how she shafted the paper when she became editor of The Sun.

"A member of staff told her: 'We are toxic now. The NOTW is a crime scene and we are all suspects'. She didn't dispute this.

"Rebekah Brooks left before any real questions could be asked and one of the IT managers came in to take over. We were told that our emails had been down all day at the request of the police. It was brought up in the meeting that staff felt like they were being treated like suspects," the employee added.